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Monday, January 11th, 2010 09:09 pm
Title: Desert Water (A sequel to Fairy Lights)
Author: Lovesrain44
Pairing: Sam/Dean
Rating: PG
Summary: Dean and Sam have been hunting a chubacapra, but things go wrong and the beast takes a slice out of Dean. Sam's on first aid duty and the long vigil gives him far too much time to think about Dean's deal and the Grand Canyon and the moon and bee mead.
Word Count: 13,98
A/N: I started writing this story in fall of 2007 as a sequel to Fairy Lights as a way of coping with the fact of Dean's deal and his death at the year's end. Now, two years later, I wanted to finish it.  At that time I started it, I hadn't quite wrapped my head around the wincest factor, so this story is a reflection of a more chaste kind of love although, yes, their clothes do come off at the end.

***


Bobby’s feedback over the phone had been that the chubacapra thing was a myth dreamed up by some idiots in the desert with too much time on their hands and not enough shade or water. People, he’d said, had all gone crazy in the heat and began to believe that a wild herding dog was an evil creature set to destroy them. Bobby’s suggestion was that it was not real and not worth their trouble. Dean’s leg attested to contrary.

As Sam carted his brother inside the motel room and laid him on the bed, the blood soaking through the torn denim was further proof of just how wrong Bobby had been. But the blood didn’t freak Sam out as much as the fact that Dean had his eyes screwed tightly shut, and never made a peep, never made a sound, not for the whole drive back to the motel.

When Dean’s head touched the pillow, his mouth moved and a second later Sam hear his name. “Sam—”

“I’m here,” Sam said, looking at the torn jeans, at the sweat on Dean’s face, feeling more sweat trickle down past his collarbone. The motel was hot, and outside was even hotter. The air conditioner, up at full, made a noise like a wheezing ghost, and didn’t help at all. But to open the windows would only let more hot air in. Cold water would help cool Dean down.

Sam ran the water in the sink, but the faucet ran tepid, like blood cooled to room temperature. The waistband of his boxers itched with sand that had somehow, somehow, gotten in there when they’d rolled down that hill. He might even have prickly pear thorns stabbing his calves, but they were tiny, and might have pulled themselves out. Or gotten laced in the hem of his jeans.

Soaking the washcloth seemed almost of no use, but he went to Dean and laid it across his brother’s forehead anyway.

“Nightingale,” said Dean, barely moving his mouth.   

“What?” asked Sam, thinking that Dean knew something he didn’t.

“Fucking Florence Nightingale,” said Dean.

“Fucking shut up.”

Sam felt the side of his brother’s face. The heat in it was rising.

“Somethin’ Sammy,” said Dean. His voice was clotted, his teeth grit together over the words as if he could chew his way through them. “Need somethin’.”

“Hang on,” said Sam, remembering something about chubacapra bites, but not exactly what. “I’m looking."

With one hand, he pulled the journal to him again and sat on the bed beside Dean. He flipped through it was fast as he could, looking for the page he needed. His fingers were slick on the pages, leaving marks.

There. Chubacapra bites. Oh, man. Shit. Fuck. Damn. Washing the bite with water would only be good if aloe vera gel was put on it after. And layered on again every few hours. The wounds should have no bandage while they were healing.

He was lucky he’d not rinsed the wounds with water, but more importantly, they didn’t have any aloe vera gel. Sam had just been in the first aid kit, the day before for something else, and they were fresh out. Antibacterial lotion and alcohol they had plenty of, but no aloe vera. 

Sam stood up, letting the journal fall on the other bed, the pages flipping open. The nearest store, some mom and pop place up the road, was only a mile away, but the Impala had almost blown a seal or something getting them back over the hills from Bisbee.

With Sam driving, and Dean crumpled on the seat beside him, there had been no one to tell Sam to pull over, or slow down, or where to pour water in the engine or even if he should pour water. By the time they’d reached the Shady Rest Motel, which was neither shaded nor restful, there’d been a green cloud coming up from the hood. Sam didn’t dare drive it till Dean had had a look at it. He’d frankly rather put his head on a plate and serve it up to Dean than drive an inch further with Dean’s best girl choking green smoke. He would have to walk it.

He looked at Dean, who was pale, his face streaked with sweat and grit. If he started cleaning Dean up now, he’d just have to jostle him all over again when he came back with the gel.

“Dean,” he said. “I’ll be back.”

His response was a cough and a sigh, and Sam opened the air to let the heat blast in.

Heat was heat, and he’d been in Arizona before, when the temperatures were high, but it’d been a dry heat. One hundred degrees was almost nothing that way. But now, with the humidity up to seventy percent during the monsoon, it was like being on a high boil for twenty four hours of the day. It should be cooler at night, especially in the desert. That it was not, was a cruel and unusual joke. Arizona in high summer, in the monsoon season, was a punishment he’d not sure what he’d done to deserve.

He closed the door behind him, checked for money in his wallet, and began to walk.

Walking in the daylight, with no hat, but only a mile to go, he figured he could make it. And make it back, even though the first three steps down the road were murder. The bright sun clamped a vise around his head and squeezed. The reflection from the bright sand alongside the road bounced up at him in a sear, and pops of sweat beaded up along his hairline.

“Shit,” he said. He should have brought water. But he was five minutes out and to waste ten more to go back and fill up a plastic jug with tepid water didn’t feel like a good use of his time. Ten minutes might make the difference between Dean loosing the leg and keeping it. If the journal said aloe vera was the only cure, then aloe vera it would be.

Seeing the building where the store was way off in the distance, dancing on the top of a heat cloud, he began to trot.

That lasted only five minutes, because the faster he moved, the more his whole skin felt like it was being shucked off by invisible hands. The core of him was boiling and he felt something soaking into his socks. He stopped to reach down and realized that yeah, he had prickly pear thorns in his calves. Three long ones. They were bleeding. Well, there was nothing for it. Dean could pull them out later. They had tweezers. They had rubbing alcohol. Sam would be fine.

By the time he reached the little store, he was covered in sweat. When he opened the door, his heart, jumped uncomfortably in his chest as he realized the store was small, and was just a faux trading post that the locals liked to pretend was real, and mostly filled with junk from china decked out to look like local Indians had produced the wares. Sam had seen enough real Indian artistry to know the fake stuff when he saw it. But he also saw an aisle filled with the other sorts of things that tourists on the road needed, and among them was a little box filled with six tubes of aloe vera. They were ninety-nine cents each. He grabbed five, which left the one, and then grabbed that one too.

“So many,” said the man behind the counter when Sam placed them down on the glass next to the register.

“Yeah,” said Sam, shaking his head. “My brother and my sister and my dad, all got a real bad sunburn today.” He tried to look concerned over the imagined scorched brood waiting for him. “I had sunscreen, you know. They’ll never learn.”

The man shook his head too and rang Sam up. “Wanna bag?” he asked.

“Yeah,” said Sam, knowing it would be easier to run with just one thing to carry. Then man put the tubes in a bag, twirled it, and then handed Sam the bag and his change. Before he could say goodbye and thanks, Sam was out the door and gone.

He tried a slower trot on the way back, but his chest was tight after two minutes and he realized, also, perhaps too late, that they were still at six thousand feet, so it wasn’t exactly sea level. At the same time, he’d hate for Dean to find out he couldn’t run even a mile, regardless of the fact that it was one hundred and fourteen degrees. The store had had an outdoor thermometer. He’d tried not to look at it and failed. Now his brain felt seared, but he made himself walk as fast as he could anyway, his shirt sticking to him everywhere, his hair flat on his head, soaked through. Perspiration was supposed to help cool the body, but it was only making him feel like he was on parboil.

By the time he opened the door to their room, he was as hot as a fireball, inside and out. Sweat dripped into his eyes as he closed the door behind him, thinking that the room should be cooler, much cooler. But it wasn’t. It was darker, at least, so he didn’t have the glare in his eyes.

Dean was only a shape on the mattress as Sam walked over to him and dumped all of the tubes on the table next to the bed and switched on the lamp. He stripped Dean of his boots and socks, shaking sand on the floor, tossing the articles aside. Anyoldhow, though Dean might be shocked at that, it wasn’t a good use of his time. He was thirsty, so thirsty, his throat felt like raw iron, but he couldn’t stop what he was doing. There was a time frame, he was sure, during which he could do something about the wound, though it wasn’t in the journal he’d read that. Maybe it had been online.

“Help me out, Dean,” he said, working as fast as he could to divest Dean of his jeans. Dean was inert, not quite limp with sleep or unconsciousness, but, instead, fighting the pain. And not helpful. The blood was messy on Sam’s hands as he peeled the jeans down Dean’s legs. Then he took Dean’s shirts off, all two of them, knowing how much sense they made in protecting bare skin against the desert’s roughness, but also knowing how hot they felt.

With Dean mostly bare on the bed, surely he was much cooler, and perhaps Sam was soaking up all the heat in the room because now he felt like he was on fire from the inside out. He couldn’t stop to hop in the shower, he would save that till after he’d gotten Dean cooled down and fixed up. The slices on his leg were open and dark, oozing across the pale expanse of Dean’s right thigh, and Sam wondered how deep they went. Maybe he didn’t want to know.

He rinsed out the washcloth and wiped at the wound, long, slow swipes of the cloth, checking to make sure there wasn’t any sand or bits of grass in there. Dean’s leg shivered beneath his hands, but didn’t wake up. Sam grabbed a tube of aloe vera and opened it and without much ceremony, emptied the entire tube into the wound. Right away, the leg stopped bleeding. Right away. It was almost weird. Dean sighed.

Sam opened the second tube and emptied it to the halfway mark. You had to put the stuff on every few hours, the journal had said. But if one tube was so effective, Dean would be alright by morning. All Sam had to do was stand by and rub the aloe vera in. Well, he could do that. And it stood to reason that the antidote against a desert creature would be a plant of the desert itself. Perhaps Dean would be impressed with him, perhaps not.

Sam reached out and stroked Dean’s forehead with the backs of his fingers, leaving a slight streak of aloe vera that shimmered in the light. Dean seemed to be getting cooler already, but Sam didn’t want to get his hopes up; he had to be attentive in case this called for him to fill the tub with ice (from somewhere, though the ice machine seemed to be on the fritz) and dunk Dean in it.

But then, as Sam’s hand paused, Dean sighed again, deeper this time. The angle of his neck eased, and his jaw stopped looking like he was chewing through leather straps. There was sweat on his forehead, but it was light, almost normal, as was the sweat on his arms and stomach. Sam let himself sigh now, let himself walk into the bathroom and take off his shoes and socks. He and turn the water on as cold as it would go. He stripped and got in, and turned his face up into the spray as if he were standing face up in the rain. He drank it as it came down, almost warm and not refreshing, but it was water.

He turned the shower off, and then stepped out of the shower, dripping water everywhere. But then, maybe that wasn’t a bad thing? He stepped out of the bathroom experimentally. His bare feet felt the grease in the carpet, and he himself smelled like wet dog. His calf was stinging as he put on dry boxers and a t-shirt, but he ignored that as he filled a plastic bottle with water from the tub (the sink wasn’t deep enough to allow a bottle), and sat it on the nightstand, next to the clock. Then he pulled up a chair, and sat in that. And watched Dean sleep, checking the clock every so often.

When he was thirsty, he drank from the bottle. When he was hot, he got up and turned on the shower and stuck his head in. Just his head. This allowed water to drip on him for about half an hour, till the heat dried him. He’d be a hell of a lot more worried, he knew, if the wound wasn’t closing like it was, slowly and steadily, and still Dean slept on.

At the four hour mark, Sam emptied an entire new tube of the gel on Dean’s leg. With damp fingers, he eased the gel into the wound, which looked good, like it had been healing for weeks. That was good, he let himself take a deep breath. Wetting a washcloth and wiping Dean’s legs and arms and face was a secondary thought, but a good one. And, from time to time, Sam allowed himself to stroke Dean’s neck, the underside of his jaw, wanting to ease the tightness there, knowing it was not only that. He liked his hands on Dean’s skin, but it wasn’t fair to Dean, if he was doing this while Dean was unconscious.

When he sat down, Dean was looking more comfortable, and as the sun went down and the heat eased by a mere fraction, Sam saw his brother’s eyes flicker open.

“What?” Dean asked, his voice blunt, as if Sam had told him something foolish.

“Dean,” said Sam.

“”ammy?”

“Yeah, Dean.”

“My car.”

“It’s outside,” said Sam, not letting a mental eyeroll in his voice affect his tone. Dean would worry about that car more than his own self, and if he knew about the smoke that had come out, well, Sam would rather he waited till morning. When the wound had closed.

But Dean was moving, trying to sit up. Sam sat up in the chair and pushed him back with both hands.

“Clothes?” asked Dean, his voice rising. “Clothes.” His voice went down, demanding now.

“Yeah, I took ‘em off. To help you cool down, and so I could—”

Dean’s hand had found the wound, and he lifted his hand and tried to look at it, his eyes going slightly cross, almost as if he couldn’t focus. Sam leaned in close, his chin almost on Dean’s shoulder, cutting off the light from the lamp, his breath warming the air even further.

“Dean. You’re okay, the car’s okay. You got a scratch, an’ I put aloe vera gel on it. That’s why it’s sticky. That’s not blood, it’s gel, okay?”

“Bite?”

“No, it was just a scratch, but it was the chubacapra, remember that? We fought it and won, but it got you just as you got it.”

The killing blow had been Dean’s, but that was not so unusual. In his mind’s eye, Sam could see the curve of Dean’s body, silhouetted against the brightening dawn, the knife in one hand, the shine of his eye as he brought the knife down. Right through the critter’s spine, taking its head from its scorched body. The growl had sounded almost human and its last act was to slash Dean’s leg open, leaving behind a trail of poison from its claws. He remembered watching Dean fall, remembered lunging forward to try and catch him, scrambling up the hillside just as Dean tumbled down it, the prickly pear plant raking his leg, and Dean in his arms.

Dean’s eyes, still unfocused, opened to look at him. Wide, hot eyes, the fringe of lashes flaring against his browbone. There was a runnel of sweat down the side of his face. His lips seemed dry and Sam lifted the bottle of water to him.

“I know it’s warm as piss, but do you want some water?”

In silence, Dean closed his eyes and nodded, and Sam unscrewed the cap and tilted the bottle up. He put his hand on the back of Dean’s damp neck and lifted the bottle to Dean’s lips, and watched to make sure he drank some. He only wanted Dean to drink, to rest, to get well. It was hard to let go of touching Dean, but he lowered Dean’s head to rest on the pillow.

When Dean tried to open his eyes to say thanks, even though thanks were not needed nor expected, Sam’s own thirst exploded. It wasn’t a physical thirst, but he lifted the bottle to his own mouth and tried to slake it with water. His heart remembered the blanket made of stone spread amongst the pine trees only yards from the Grand Canyon. The night under the partial moon, and the promise they had made.

Something like this, though, a mere fleshwound, was not enough to ask to be inside of Dean’s lights. There was no ceremony needed. Not this time.

Sam took the washcloth now from beside Dean’s head, and it was bone dry. He went to the bathroom and ran yet more tepid water, and went back to Dean and wiped him down, starting with his neck, and then his chest, taking his time, being gentle. He had to rinse the washcloth a few times, but it was worth it. When he touched the side of Dean’s face, yes, cooler now. And still. Not jumping around as though he had bees in his skin.

Sam sighed, tipping his head back, feeling the sweat and grit slide along his neck. He stood there calculating. He had three and a half tubes left and around ten hours left till sunrise. If he used half a tube now, and a whole one, say, every three hours, it would be dawn when he ran out. If he needed more, he could, well, hike ten miles if need be, now that he had seen what the aloe vera could do.

That was his night. A cycle of sitting and watching the clock, the TV on for a time, and then off for others. Emptying tubes of aloe vera, spreading the contents with his fingers, watching the wound close and turn pink, a series of thin, pink lines. Rinsing out the washcloth and then wiping all the exposed parts of Dean. Shoving his own head into the spray of the shower, and then sitting again. Waiting for the next time.

The heat never waned, he felt it eat into every crevice of his body, sweat building up during each cycle so thick he wanted to scream. Once, in the darkest part of the night, he went to the door and opened it and felt the rush of hot air drive into the room, erasing what little good the air conditioner had been able to do. In the morning, when he’d figured out the mystery of what was wrong with the Impala, they would switch motels. He didn’t care how much it cost. There had to be someplace better.

Dawn caught him sleeping in the chair, stiff from head to toe, his calf aching from where he’d tried to pick the spines out with his fingers in the half-dark, his eyes scratched with grit. But Dean was sleeping, also. Sleeping and not sweating. Turned on his side, even, the wounded leg crooked up, his knee dug into the thin mattress, sheets weaving like ribbons among his legs. Just like always. Sam let himself sigh. Made himself stand up. He had one tube of aloe vera left, but when he checked Dean’s leg, he realized it wasn’t needed. There were thin scars, but the wound was closed, and only some slight swelling to mark their passing.

“Touchin’ me?” demanded Dean, waking up, his eyes fluttering beneath his eyelids.

“Yeah,” Sam whispered. “Yeah.”

“Don’t,” said Dean. Then he sat up, leaning on his elbow, turned back towards Sam. The sheets had pressed marks into the line of his ribs. “What’re you doin’?”

“Do you remember the chubacapra?” asked Sam, keeping his voice low, trying not to stare.

“Yeah, shit.” Dean reached down to his right thigh and looked at his hand, much as he had the night before. But his hand came away clean, except for the residue of the aloe vera gel and his eyes were clear as he looked at it. “It got my leg, didn’t it.” He looked up at Sam. “How come my leg didn’t fall off?”

Sam held up the remaining tube, figuring that if aloe vera worked this well, he’d make sure the first aid kit was always stocked with it. “This,” he said, putting it down on the table. “I read about it in Dad’s journal. It was the only thing that was going to work.”

“We don’t have that,” said Dean. He rolled over now, pressing against the mattress to sit up, his legs easing to the floor. “Where’dyou get it?”

“Store up the road,” said Sam, not mentioning that he’d walked or why.

“Oh.” Dean nodded at this, trusting Sam as he did.

“We need to move motels,” said Sam.

“”s wrong with this one?” Dean looked around.

“It’s hot. The air conditioner doesn’t work. There’s no ice machine. It’s hot.”

“Ah.” This from Dean as he stood up on shaking legs in spite of Sam’s motion of protest.

“What’s all over you?” Dean asked, his eyes glancing Sam’s way. It was almost amazingly indecent the way he stood up and walked, almost not limping, his leg mostly able to carry his weight, to open the front door, when last night his thigh had been sliced open.

With the door open, he stood there in his boxers and looked at the day. Looking out over Dean’s shoulder, Sam could see how bright it already was, feel the rush of newly baked heat come at him, and started to sweat all over again. His mouth opened to start explaining how legs were stained with the blood from the prickly pear thorns, or the blood from Dean’s leg, or the aloe vera gel that had a tendency to get everywhere, when Dean cocked his head to one side.

“What’s that smell?” Dean asked.

Sam sniffed the air. Then he walked closer to Dean and sniffed again. Sam could only smell heat. Barefooted, Dean stepped onto the fake plastic grass on the walkway, and as though about to go to where his car was parked, only feet away. Then he stopped, perhaps realizing how hot tar could be on bare feet.

“Does that smell like burned rubber to you?”

“Burned rubber?” asked Sam. He felt the shock in his stomach and tried to keep his face in neutral lines but Dean caught him.

“You drove us back,” said Dean. It was not a question. “What happened to the Impala. Did somethin’ happen to her?”

Sam wanted to shrug, but Dean pushed him aside and tried to pull on his jeans from the day before. His blood had stiffened them, so growling, he grabbed for another pair from his duffle. These were also dirty, several states dirty, but they went on easier. Then he slipped on his boots without socks and shoved past Sam to the parking lot. Sam followed, trying to stay in the shade, feeling the rocks and gravel on his bare feet.

Bending, ignoring the sun pelting down on his bare back, Dean pressed the latch and opened the hood. For a moment, he stood there, looking. Sam could see his back tightening as though he were going to launch himself at something. When he turned, Sam could see that that something was him.

“What color was the smoke?”

“What?”

Dean limped back into the shade, and gave Sam a shove. “I said, what color was the smoke, you moron!” Then he turned back to the car, pulling at something, poking at something else. Sam braved the sun and the sharp gravel and came as close as he dared. The sun was beating down on his head with both hands.

“There’s a slice in this radiator tube,” said Dean. “I checked this fucker only last week, I checked it.”

“It was green,” said Sam. “Coming over the pass. Only about five miles or so.”

“Five miles?” It was almost a shout, and the fact that it wasn’t could only attest to how angry Dean was. “You drove that far with my baby choking on herself?”

Sam opened his mouth to answer. It wasn’t going to help to explain that Dean had collapsed in his arms and had been bleeding all over his jeans. It wasn’t going to help that he’d left the blood to dry on the upholstery either. All night, as a matter of fact. He might have bent a tire rim or two, as well, pulling into the bumpy, pot-hole-ridden parking lot of the Shady Rest, even though Dean had commented on it when they’d arrived and pointed it out to Sam how bad it would be to drive the Impala too fast over that kind of ground. Sam was in all kinds of trouble. He just didn’t know where to begin.

And it was obvious, anyway, that he had, in fact, driven Dean’s baby and boiled the engine.

With a growl, Dean shut the hood and pushed past Sam, limping, and went into the room to snag a phone book. He picked up his cell phone and opened it, holding it at the ready as he flipped through the pages.

“You wanna new motel,” muttered Dean, punching the numbers in with his thumb, “well, you’re just fucking shit out of luck. My baby wouldn’t make it two feet. She needs a tow, an’—yeah? Yeah. I’m at the Shady Rest. Right. Yeah. Off the main highway, an’ I need a tow. You know a good radiator man? Okay…okay. Good. Can you come get my car and take her there? Yeah. I got a credit card. We’re good. Thanks.”

He closed his phone with a click and looked at Sam.

“And tell me you didn’t drive her anywhere after that.”

Sam shook his head, his hair falling in his face. Dean’s eyes were a curious color, green stones in a hot fire. He didn’t want to get any closer, didn’t want Dean coming up to shove his face in Sam’s face. In Dean’s mind, Sam had mortally wounded the Impala, perhaps forever, and hang what the excuse had been.

“But then—” Dean stopped. He put the cell phone down on the table next to the tube of aloe vera gel. He touched it with the tip of a finger. “How’dyou get this then, if you didn’t drive?”

Sam rubbed his chin, feeling the dirt there come off in rolls. “I walked.”

“You walked? Where? In the heat?”

“It was only a mile, Dean.” He said this quickly, snapping his mouth shut.

Now Dean was still, his chest rising and falling once as he took in what he saw before him. Really seeing it, Sam guessed, though he wanted to squirm. And looked down at himself too. There were sweat stains under his armpits of his t-shirt, and streaks of blood on his legs. His fingers were covered with dirt and gel, and there was something dark under his fingernails. His calf was throbbing.

“You wore shoes, right?”

Sam looked up. The fire had gone from Dean’s eyes, the curious green color had faded. He nodded. “It was only a mile.”

Dean was looking out the still open doorway and his eyes flickered as if measuring the heat of the morning already building to uncomfortable levels.

“Christ. How long—”

“You were out since dawn yesterday. It was only twenty-four hours.”

Only.”

“The aloe vera did the trick, though,” said Sam, covering his swallow, wanting to cover the sheen of sweat he suddenly felt along his midsection. “Never seen anything work so fast.”

Dean, looking at him, saw past it all.

“Thanks,” he said.

Dean used the back of his hand to wipe his forehead, and Sam saw, that in spite of the miracle of a desert plant’s sap, Dean was somewhat unsteady and probably shouldn’t be walking around, at least for a day or so.

“You should take it easy,” Sam said, allowing himself to move forward. “The shower feels like warm spit, but it’s better than nothing.”

Now Dean was looking up at him, pushing air out through pursed lips, making Sam think of cool water and how thirsty he was. Sam closed his eyes and made himself think of something else. Then he heard Dean sitting on the bed.

“The tow truck might could take us someplace different,” said Dean. “Go ahead, make some calls. Pick a place.”

Sam opened his eyes and felt as though he’d been given the keys to the kingdom. As punishment, he had been willing to stay at the Shady Rest till the car was fixed. If it could be fixed. But instead, Dean had forgiven him. He felt at least a degree cooler already.

Dean lay back with a sigh gusting from his lungs, safe, alive, and Sam began flipping through the phone book. He found a place with a small two-line ad and a little black and white image of some kind of plant. It was called Desert Waters, and promised a cool repose for travelers. He dialed the number and got a clerk, who made them reservations for two nights. And then began giving them directions so briskly that Sam couldn’t keep up.

“San where?” Sam asked.

The clerk explained. The motel was located along the main highway through the San Pedro valley. But just after you crossed the river, you had to take a sharp left and follow the river downstream for a mile. The motel was right on the edge of the park. Sam shrugged as he wrote this all down on the motel’s notepad. Then he clicked the pen a few times as he listened to the clerk go through the schpeel about check in and check out times; it was pretty much the same wherever you went.

By the time he shut off his phone, Dean was half asleep on the bed. Feeling tired himself, Sam went ahead and got dressed and packed up their stuff, not wanting Dean to have a second chance at making them stay. He was done by the time the tow truck arrived, and he girded his loins and went out to ask the driver to give them a lift, or tell them how they could get a ride to the motel.

“Yup,” said the driver. “You pay me, okay? After we drop off the car.”

The driver, whose name patch said “Ike,” was getting out of his tow truck as he said this, eyeing the Impala with admiring eyes. “Who’s the idiot who blew the radiator, eh?”

“My brother,” said Dean, coming through the doorway in blue jeans, pulling his t-shirt on, and rubbing his eyes. He snickered. “He couldn’t smell a burning break liner at five inches, not even if you paid him.”

Sam let himself be laughed at, and watched as the two men lifted the hood and looked at the engine. They poked at things and pulled at others and then Ike stuck out his chin as he lowered the hood.

“Not saying, mind you, but looks like you just had a little leak, and no real damage to the radiator. My guy’ll patch the radiator, give you a new tube. You should be good to go by the end of the day. Tomorrow noon, the latest.”

Sam’s body released all its tension and he let out a whoosh of relief before he could stop it. Dean’s response was a sideways grin; Brother Sam had been that close to paying with his whole skin and both of them knew it.

Sam got his shoes and socks on and made the circle around the room, checking the spots in the usual order, according to the ritual. Dresser top, drawers, bathroom counter, tub. Bed, table, chair, under the bed. He grabbed most of their gear in his two hands.

“All clear,” he said to Dean, who was standing up, having just laced his boots.

“Let’s go.”

Ike was finishing up, attaching the Impala to his rig with as much care as he might hand a baby to its mother. The Impala usually had that effect on people, car people that is, though Sam for the life of him couldn’t figure out why. Though, the fact that it was Dean’s baby, his best girl, and his second home all rolled into one was something Sam knew, that outsiders didn’t. In the end, everyone seemed to handle the car with kid gloves, not least of which was Dean himself.

They were finally able to climb into the truck’s cab, Dean in the middle so Sam could have more room for his legs. The drive was hot; there was no air conditioning. Dean and the driver talked about cars and Sam let himself stare out of the open window, letting the hot air stir his hair and trying not to think about how thirsty he was. How much he wanted to be slaked.

He almost laughed at this. Almost. It would be mighty hard to explain to Dean were they alone, and as for the driver, well, Sam might as well keep his mouth shut there. And when Dean and him were alone, well, maybe he’d be too afraid to try. And again, there was no reason. No need for being inside the lights.

They dropped the Impala gently off at a repair station in the small town of Martinez, and then the driver took them to the motel, and he didn’t need directions.

“Yeah, I know that one. Couples mostly, or bird watchers.”

Sam felt himself frowning, never having though of bird watching as being an Arizona pastime.

The driver looked at him, leaning forward to see past Dean. “You know, condors, hawks, that kind.”

Sam made himself nod, and looked out the window to see the valley unfold before the road, with the mountains in the distance all around. It seemed a little greener here, and he supposed the river was the reason, though he’d not heard of there being any rivers in Arizona. Well, that was the benefits of travel, he supposed. Learning stuff you couldn’t get on the internet.  The air felt cooler too, or maybe it was just a trick his eyes were playing on him. There were even trees, cedars to be sure, but taller than the ones around Bisbee, and with darker green leaves. Not as many as in, say, Wisconsin, but more than he was used to seeing by the side of the highway in Arizona.

“Trees,” said Dean.

“Yep,” said the driver, making the sharp turn after the river without looking. “That’s the San Pedro valley for you. A spring or something, I dunno. It runs all year.”

The truck pulled into the little parking lot in front of the Desert Waters motel and came to rest in front of the lobby. The hotel itself was in the shape of a V, all the doors facing north, each door trimmed with a little roof for shade.

“Get your bags, then, or my wife’ll have use for ‘em,” said Ike conversationally.

Sam got their bags out of the back of the truck, and Dean paid the guy with cash. Sam could understand that. Ike was driving them on the sly, and any credit card payment would not get approved, since that wasn’t his regular job. Dean might stiff an established business, but there was something in his soul that wouldn’t stiff a man who’d taken such good care of his best girl.

“They’ll call ya,” said the driver. Then he turned the wheel and went back the way he’d come.

They stood there, bags in hand, each looking at the other.

“You, I think,” said Sam. Dean was the cleaner of the two and less likely to scare the clerk. Sam stepped into the shade with his bags and waited till Dean came out with the key. It seemed to take forever because even with the shade, it was baking his brain.

“Room four,” Dean said, swinging the key from the red, diamond-shaped piece of plastic.

“Yep,” said Sam. “They got air conditioning right?”

“Nope,” said Dean. “But she said we’d be alright.”

And Dean would be alight because Sam would look after him, but Sam felt his heart sink. His stomach was boiling and his head felt like it was going to be exploding quite soon. His body needed temperatures below one hundred degrees and fast.

He waited while Dean opened the door, and carried all the bags, his fingers stretching. Dean stepped into the darkness of the room, his gait a little uneven in the quiet room, and Sam followed, feeling something whoosh over his head. He ducked. Dean turned on the lights. There was a ceiling fan already in motion. The walls were soft cream colored. The floor beneath his feet was rough, red tile. There was a window at the far end, but it was closed and curtained. It felt like a cave. A dark, cool, quiet cave.

“No air conditioning,” said Dean. “I guess the walls are a foot thick. Real adobe or something.”

“Oh.” It was the only sound Sam could make. He put the bags on the bed, the only bed, and walked to the sink and ran the cold water. It came out cold. Ice cold.

“She said the water was from a spring.”

“Jeezus.”

He was cooling off already. Not by mere degrees, but by galloping degrees. His head felt soothed and his skin hummed with pleasure.

“You tired?” asked Dean.

Sam barely heard him. He was pulling his sneakers off, heeling them off, not even untying the laces. He stripped off his socks, barely missing the cactus thorns. Then he ripped off his t-shirt, ripped back the counterpane and sank full bodied into the sheets. They were cool and soft. He felt like he was floating. He heard Dean snigger at him, and then, nothing.

Part 2

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